But SEMA represents a vast industry of automotive specialty manufacturers and distributors that make and sell all kinds of accessory auto parts—performance and cosmetic—for every kind of vehicle.
Every once in a while, you see a car there that truly improves on what the factory has offered. Such is the Lexus IS 350C as modified by VIP Auto Salon. These guys seem to work on Lexus cars almost exclusively, and while most Lexi leave me cold, the 350C is beautifully executed, and VIP has left nothing untouched.
The standard 350C is far from a bad car, even though it doesn’t offer a manual gearbox and can’t really compete with the convertible offerings of Audi and BMW. Its 3.5-liter V6 outputs 306 hp and will do 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds, says LeftLane.
But the VIP boys have added a custom supercharger, headers and tuned ECU controller, which boosts power to 386 hp and 372 lb-ft of torque. Besides suspension upgrades, lowered springs, Bilstein shocks and 19-inch wheels, the show car gets the full treatment of:
- an aero styling package (spoilers, diffusers, etc., tastefully done)
- carbon fiber hood
- “custom chameleon paint” (whatever that is)
- custom seat inserts
- special interior and exterior LED lighting.
Should Toyota have put mods like this into its 350C from the beginning? Well, yes, if it wanted to make the Lexus competitive with, say, the Audi A5 convertible (and if so, the car desperately needs a manual tranny).
But maybe it was focusing on a niche below German performance-oriented machines. Maybe it was looking for the buyer who would be happy with a little less clout and a few more dollars left in his pocket. Infiniti makes a pretty nice car with its G37 convertible, and maybe that’s the competition Lexus was aiming at.
Toyota knows well how to make sporty cars. It is showing off the 2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport at SEMA, with all the goodies you’d want. Kind of like what the VIP guys did with the convertible.
Can Lexus’ IS 350C and GS 350 F Sport really compete with cars from Audi and Mercedes-Benz?